Plot: At 12 Mary was saved from the noose by a mysterious woman and raised in an exclusive girl’s school. After 5 years study, it has become clear to Mary that a life of clerical work or teaching simply are not for her. But she soon finds that she has been groomed for an entirely different purpose: to be a spy in the female only Agency. Her first assignments leads her to the household of a merchant suspected of smuggling. There is danger aplenty but she risks also falling in love and exposing the secret of her heritage.
I seem to be rather fond of mysteries set in the Victorian period. This is a fun one with a couple a nice twists on the genre: first the female investigator and second the small Chinese community in London. I love strong women in fiction but I felt that the number of women who defied social conventions without consequence in this book hurt the historical believability. The Lascars fascinated me however. In all my readings, I’ve never learned much about Chinese sailors in England.
The mystery disappointed me a little in that it was resolved less through skillful investigation and more through information falling convieniently in their hands. But it still managed to hold my interest, if only because of the two investigators. Mary is quite complex and I rather liked James. He can be quite detestable and arrogant but he reminds me somewhat of my beloved Mr. Darcy.
I have read better books in the genre (Tasha Alexander’s Emily Ashton mysteries beginning with And Only to Deceive for example) but the series holds promise. It continues with A Body in the Tower.
Challenges: The East and South East Asian Challenge (2)